He would press my face against his belly and brush my hair up his torso towards his chest. His furrowed eyebrows and heavy breathing would indicate this was serious business. Lips pursed tight and clutching in them the rubber band he’d use to gather all of my wild red curls into a firmly fixed pony tail. My face pulled tight while smashed into his belly. Clothed in the familiar Hanes ribbed tank top and the smell of Jovan Musk cologne. My sister and I still crack up over this shared experience and the irony of our dad caring so much that those suckers wouldn’t come out that he would over look making them even. So many pictures with us donning lop-sided pigtails.
I can remember him plopping me up on the kitchen counter to give me medicine on a spoon, and being thrilled to find it hidden somewhere in the middle of a dollop of chocolate pudding.
I have the foggiest snippets of him picking me up from my grandma’s house late at night while he worked a swing shift. Carrying me out to his truck and without fail, throwing a blanket over my head to shield me from the harsh winter air. (Even now when it snows, the sweet and new smell it brings instantly reminds me of this memory.) Then he’d take me home and we would watch Johnny Carson while he took off his heavy work boots.
These are my first memories. You know, the ones that squeak through when you really squint and strain to try and recall the first moments of your life’s history. My parents had divorced just before I had turned two and despite my efforts, my memories just don’t reach beyond me being three or four. So the few of my earliest ones are just of He and I.
Our family grew over time and my Dad would add to my memory bank a new wife, new siblings and new traditions. Family life, holidays and unofficial rituals…the small and specific things that make families special and unique. Like, learning the lyrics and artist to nearly every song in the last 6 decades of music. As well as eating ice cream in a glass with milk poured on top of it. A lazy milkshake (hold the “shake”). We didn’t really know that people ate it any differently. We also didn’t know that other families weren’t holding family meetings in the bathroom while their dad was sitting on the toilet. To us, that was the norm. Despite the good, the bad and the ugly I’d say growing up we still experienced a lot of the classic “Dad” moments.
For me it was being taught the the art of the bike ridden without training wheels in the school parking lot. Truly the golden keys of freedom when you’re a kid. My Dad made boundaries between some neighbors drive-ways and I was to ride in the confines of what he deemed safe. Driving a car in my late teen years would prove to be no different. At 31 he still corrects my driving.
There were softball practices and games. Teaching me how to get under a pop fly ball…and I better not close my eyes if I’m gonna go for it…DO NOT BE AFRAID OF THE BALL!
The pride of a day spent pulling weeds and doing yard work because the world has no use for lazy people… ( still working on that one Dad).
There was the disappointment of my first school dance in junior high. He, pulling up in the Oldsmobile to pick me up after school and asking how my day was. Me, trying so hard not to burst into tears. The lump in my throat making it impossible to hold a bluff. I remember him reassuring me that I was pretty and wonderful and someday there would be someone WORTHY of dancing with me. I rolled my eyes, but deep down I believed him a little. Ultimately, he’d be right.
These are some examples of a few good memories pulled from 31 years of my experience living on earth. There are too many to share. Good ones and of course the not-so-good ones that I wouldn’t share. We all have terrible stuff that we’ve had to endure and would rather forget. My dad can be extremely difficult. He is demanding and dramatic and explosive. He has had bad habits and has made bad choices. I am a lot like him! We have had as many rocky moments as good ones. But, at the end of the day I know his love comes without stipulations.
When I watch my husband and the way he is with our children I understand my dad a little deeper than I would have been able to before. Knowing my husbands heart and intentions for our son and daughter are probably not far from where EVERY parent has been trying to aim since the beginning, including our own parents. Maybe in parenthood is where we finally give our parents a break?
Wishing my hubs a happy father’s day this last weekend was important. I want him to know that I appreciate him as my children’s father. My baby daddy! There isn’t anyone else I’d rather be doing this parenting thing with than him.
But the day is more about appreciating my OWN father while he’s still around to be appreciated. Some people don’t have that luxury.
Maybe even taking a moment to appreciate all of the wonderful men in my life?
I’ve been lucky enough to not only have my dad, but also a wonderful step father and a spiritual father to both my husband and I, the pastor of our church. All three of these men have been instrumental in my life.
I also have amazing brothers who have become honorable men and beloved uncles. I am surrounded by strong men who have taught me to be bold and unapologetic about being myself. I have been given the space to freak out, ask questions, roar and be my loud and obnoxious self. I have been encouraged to be a leader and charge taker in a world where a lot of women are made to feel the exact opposite by the men in their lives.
To this, I say a huge “Thank you”.